TUGS and a pilot boat from Svitzer Australia have rescued locals and provided a safe haven for those threatened by fierce bushfires in East Gippsland and southern New South Wales.

Television footage has shown people at the small Victorian town of Mallacoota seeking shelter on small boats with some being ferried to a Navy boat for rescue.

Svitzer Australia has a long-standing towage, lines and pilot operation at Eden in southern NSW.

A Svitzer spokesperson said the team in Eden “rose to the threat” and worked incredibly hard to provide practical support to the NSW Rural Fire Service and the local community.


“The team coordinated with the RFS to offer transport to firefighters across Twofold Bay, and multiple emergency callouts were completed by Svitzer pilot boat, Mersey,” the spokesperson said.

“This support also took form in the offer of 20,000 litres of diesel to the RFS, which ultimately was not required, but remains on offer.”

A view of the HMAS Choules. Credit: Ian McAllister and Svitzer

Tugs Cooma and Wistari became a haven for many people sheltering on Eden Wharf.

More than 80 residents, aged between six months and 92-years-old — and 12 dogs — took shelter on the vessels.

Colouring in competitions and card games reportedly were used to keep morale, with enough food brought on board to last a month.

Around 20 people in total remain on board Wistari and Cooma, sheltering from a fire that continues to threaten nearby Nethercote.

HMAS Choules helped rescue people from Mallacoota. Credit: Stephen Dart and Svitzer

“We will continue to work with local authorities to offer practical support as needed,” the Svitzer spokesperson said.

Svitzer tugs helped the Royal Australia Navy bring in evacuees from Mallacoota on HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.

Svitzer joined Port Phillip Sea Pilots in donating our services in order to support those displaced by the fires. Port Phillip Sea Pilots have donated their pilotage services as their way of “standing with those affected by this fire emergency”.